I was recently looking for some media to accompany an architecture-related project, and I discovered a host of virtual tours of famous works of architecture. How cool is that? While you can never truly experience a place from a computer screen, it’s nice to have the option when travelling to the site in person isn’t in your schedule (or budget). Consider this a sister to my article “How to Enjoy Art from the Comfort of Your Home“.
All of the tours I list below are 360° experiences, not just pictures. Some are videos, and some are more like a video game, where you can control how and where you move. They do give you some semblance of actually being there, since the perspective is a lot better than in regular photographs, and you get a better sense of the whole building. However, navigating them is an acquired skill, at least for someone like me who isn’t very good at video games.
Maybe some of these tours will inspire you to visit these places one day.
- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel
- Notre Dame de Paris in Paris, France – what it was like before the fire
- St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy
- The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and its exhibitions, past and current.
- Some virtual tours of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Real Virtual is a project from Columbia University that includes 360° panoramas and other interactive features for a variety of sites. The categories are: Ancient, early Christian and Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, 19th century, Modern, and Islamic. The sites you can tour include the Basilica of Maxentius, San Vitale in Ravenna, Mont San Michel, the Piazza San Marco in Venice, the Chateau at Vaux-le-Vicomte in France, the Opera Garnier in Paris, and the Alhambra in Spain. I should probably mention that there appears to be two different formats used, and only one of them worked on my computer. Hopefully, the rest of you will have better luck.
New 7 Wonders was a project to vote on the new seven wonders of the world. You can visit the seven winners in 360° view thanks to The New York Times.
Roundme is a website specifically for people to post their 360° tours of places. There’s lots of super cool stuff there, and not just monuments. For example, I toured an ice cave in Iceland. (Bucket list!) Just type your terms into the search bar. While you can navigate a little in these panoramas, it seems best to just let it pan for you. Because the tours on Roudme aren’t official like many of the others I’ve posted, you see lots of tourists standing around and even engaging with the camera, which is kind of fun.
360 Cities has lots of panoramas too. I searched for “church” and got over two thousand results just for that one term alone.
AirPano has some pretty cool stuff, too. It offers both panoramic videos and photos. I was a bit skeptical of that photos would be up to the task of providing a real 360° experience, but I was definitely proven wrong when I viewed the slideshow from the ancient Egyptian temple at Luxor.
You can tour pretty much anything on Google Earth.